Saturday, November 25, 2017

The sweet spot

Stepping out into the garden this fine late November morning, I was struck by what a sweet spot the garden is in at the moment. Everything is growing well, all the vegie crops are already being picked and producing more every day, and all the woes of a Sydney summer seem like they're an eternity away. Late spring is just about the perfect time of year to be a gardener in this part of the world.

As is my custom, here's an iPhone "Panorama" shot taken 10 minutes ago of all the happy campers in their park.

I'm often struck by how different the human eye is from a camera. From inside our house, looking out, this big yellow star of a zucchini flower is what catches your eye. It said to me "if you don't come out with your camera and take a photo of me, you're missing out". And yet in the panorama above you can barely notice it.

This is the first year I have grown Lebanese zucchini, and they're different from the more conventional 'Blackjack' zucchinis which I tend to grow most years. For one thing, as you can see here, the plants are very susceptible to powdery mildew, but this doesn't affect the crops. In fact, this light dusting of mildew almost looks nice. I'm sure it'll end up being much worse, and I'll pull the plants out prematurely in midsummer, but right now, in this late spring "sweet spot" I can live with spotty leaves.

Zucchini flowers don't last long, but they are fun, and besides, you can always fill them up with ricotta cheese and herbs, coat them in tempura batter and do some fancy dining with them.

The reason I'm growing these pale green Lebanese zucchini is mostly just to try something different, but also because I think these smaller zucchinis have a better flavour than the bigger, dark green ones.

"Lebanese" this, "Lebanese" that: it's an accidental theme this year, and here's my Lebanese eggplant looking young and healthy. Lots of flowers but no fruit yet. They'll appear in summer.

But wait, there's more! Lebanese cucumbers, too, climbing up my frail, spindly teepee of skinny bamboo. These things don't merely "crop", they "glut". We've already harvested several and have given a few away, but fortunately Pammy loves snacking on little bits of chopped up cucumber, so she's my main customer. 

It's taken a while to turn a dozen or so tiny little mixed lettuce seeds into this delicious salad starter pack, but the idea of having a nice mixture of salad greens in a pot that's within a few steps of the kitchen is working out nicely.

I haven't grown silver beet in years, but by chance I ended up with half a punnet of seedlings and in just a few weeks here they are, very big ready to go. I love cooking Indian food, and so a lot of these leaves will go into things such as a lamb or chicken saag, or a vego palak paneer.

I suspect this whole crop won't be here in two weeks' time, but right now they are looking splendid.

Call it a portent of summer pests to come, but here's the only problem popping up during this gardening sweet spot. I suspect it's slugs, because I can't find any snails nearby, but someone is munching on my pot of basil and they're having a delicious old time of it, too.

I've moved the pot to another spot and I'm on the lookout for culprits. So far no luck, and more leaves eaten last night. 

Maybe it's caterpillars? In that case, in my current sweet mood of spring gardening contentment, I am adopting the benign policy of feeding our garden's future butterflies some tender young Genovese basil, and I hope they appreciate its flavour.


MDN said...

Jaime, your vegetable garden looks splendid! From what I read we are gardening in similar climate (subtropical humid) I'd love to have a vegetable garden but I don't have enough space in my garden: it's vegetables or flowers and I love flowers too much. Have a great weekend!

Phil in Newy said...

Nice update, thanks Jamie. And best wishes to SWMBO, too.
It all looks great and nice to wander in someone else's garden. I know mine backwards, though it will never bore me.

Funny with that mildew on the zucchini. I've some cucumbers growing and the leaves look just the same. A close inspection of the discolouration showed it was like a blistery film, and not powdery. And nor does it seem to affect the growth, and it doesn't spread or destroy the leaves. Is that mildew or have you seen that sort of affect?

My strawberries, which tend to grow all year round in a warm sheltered spot next to the pond, get eaten just when ripe. Still can't pinpoint the culprit, but the of suspects is, in descending order, cockroaches, slugs, mice, ants, and of course, every other insect/creature ever seen in the garden :0) I prefer the challenge & tactics of physical protection rather than scorched earth on the locals.

And hasn't this been a perfect east-coast weekend!

Jamie said...

Now I'm doubting that the white markings on the zucchini are mildew at all. Certainly the long, dry spell of weather hasn't been all that mildewy lately. I'll have to investigate some more, but the important thing is that the cropping is entirely unaffected.

michelle hamer said...

The zucchini leaves look perfectly healthy to me, some squash have silvery markings like that on their leaves. Your garden is looking splendid, such a contrast to my ratty tatty northern hemisphere late autumn garden. I'm watching plants die right and left and can hardly keep up with moving them to the compost bin.

Jamie said...

Thanks for that, Michelle. Classic "newbie" mistake on my part!

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